Congress holds hearings on women's incarceration

Women advocate for prison reform and a change to mandatory minimum sentences.
3:56 | 07/17/19

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Transcript for Congress holds hearings on women's incarceration
Well this week on Capitol Hill lawmakers held hearings on a growing number of women and girls behind bars in this country including a a growing number of pregnant women they heard from a number of high profile figures including. The author of Orange is the new black. And our Serena marshals here because she caught up with her paper or crewman. Yes she was on Capitol Hill on DeVon as she seemed very optimistic that this is an issue that congress can make headway on in fact a prison reform is an issue that has bipartisan support and the trop administration has actually moved forward on with recent legislation. And they're up there and making sure the unique needs of women are actually address nanny for that legislation. In privileged college graduate self described lost. And a first time nonviolent offender arrested imprisoned and sent on a new career path millions watched her story on Netflix. Recently got into central prison. And turning it back yeah. This is mailing. Hiker Clemens memoir about prison life for women. Oranges a new black adapted for TV and began a conversation about female justice in this country when you look at the stories. That those women carry their life stories is that they're like wow I went through something like that. I can understand action fields since the 1980s the number of females behind bars has skyrocketed. And nearly two thirds of them mothers. Women are more likely than men to be incarcerated for nonviolent crimes. In total they make up about 7% of the jail house population the system was. Definitely built by and for a man. And not for the majority of incarcerated whim and who suffer from preexisting trauma. Or for the mothers often single parents whose children are frequently forced into the Foster system the white collar criminal turned author telling lawmakers Tuesday it's not crying and that is driving the increase in women behind bars. But needed touring minimum sentences. I. Here Cindy a shank the subject of an HBO documentary the sentiments. Behind bars for a long mandatory minimum after being convicted a federal conspiracy charges related to crimes committed by her deceased ex boyfriend. The real victim as the children that are left behind you know what I went away my daughter's record to six weeks old and I was sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison so I had they grew up. Without him. Her family's story helping to commends legislators to change the law for nonviolent convicts like her sister. Favoring house arrest an ankle bracelet monitoring over breaking up families and imprisonment. Women told me DeVon and it's one thing that they learned how to have in prison it was how to keep the hope and that's something they hurt but taking with them as they talk of these legislators saying that they feel that needs these lawmakers. Are going to address the unique needs of women and in fact many lawmakers replaying to programs that they were in their own state they were already taking on some of the. There's a real sense they feel left out of this prison reform push it's been taking place is last few months the company estrogen Harold in this big. Overhaul of the criminal justice system not a lot of that program focused on the women behind bars. Not a lot goes on the women and likely send the peace there's so many unique challenges. More than a 100000 women are entering the prison system pregnant and those women are forced to have their children. And go through maternity and well there pregnant in prison. They're able to have a child at a hospital but often as soon as they're released from the hospital the child is taken away. The mother returned to prison is actually one of the issues that high performance had stuck out to her most her first day in prison has seen a woman who was eight months pregnant and nine and real life and that pregnant women are in prison some of these state programs. Actually include things like nurseries in the prison system and that. Parents can aunts mothers can and stay with their children up until two years of age they're not being separated. From that from birth. And interest and stuffs and Marshall thanks for your reporting things are bringing that to us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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